The business world now sees the value of blockchain beyond the initial euphoria about cryptocurrencies, and more stakeholders are wondering how to implement blockchain. People responsible for implementing the technology need to know about the best blockchain network hosts. This is exactly what I explain in this article.
The expanding horizon of blockchain development
Leave aside the hugely popular cryptocurrency market for a moment, and look at the market for the blockchain technology alone. It’s a rapidly growing market, with the global revenue increasing from $1.2 billion in 2018 to $23.3 billion in 2023, as this Statista report projects.
The horizon of blockchain development is expanding significantly, beyond the initial promise of “Peer-to-Peer” (P2P) digital payment network Bitcoin. Entrepreneurs are developing “Decentralized Apps” (DApps) on Ethereum, NEO, etc., moreover, big businesses are implementing enterprise blockchains like Hyperledger Fabric and R3 Corda.
Naturally, this brings us to the challenges with respect to blockchain implementation. Controlling the cost, achieving scale, implementing data privacy, lack of expertise with this new technology are just some examples of these challenges. Read “Top 10 enterprise blockchain implementation challenges” for more insights.
Addressing these challenges requires meticulous planning, as I have explained in “What to plan for when undertaking blockchain software development?”. However, even a cursory glance at the challenges tells you that finding the right blockchain network host is the key since this will help in budget adherence, scalability, etc.
Public or enterprise blockchain: A key decision point
In your project to create a blockchain network, whether you use a public or an enterprise blockchain influences your choice of the blockchain network host. The following considerations apply here:
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- Decentralized business model: Are you building a new business with a decentralized P2P business model? In that case, you will likely build a DApp with a crypto token, and platforms like Ethereum or NEO are suitable for you. On the other hand, if you are implementing blockchain in an enterprise context, then Fabric or Corda will work better.
- Data privacy: Can you allow open access to anyone to view your data? If your business model allows that, then a public blockchain is okay, otherwise, you need an enterprise blockchain.
- Scale and transaction throughput: Note that public blockchains don’t fare too well in terms of scalability and transaction throughput. If these are key considerations for you, then an enterprise blockchain is your best bet.
I have explained these considerations earlier in “Public vs private (permissioned) blockchain comparison”. You need to choose between a public and enterprise blockchain before you pick a blockchain network host.
Best blockchain network hosts for public blockchains
Let’s review your options in case you are planning to launch a DApp on a public blockchain, equipped with a crypto token. You can choose from the following options:
Ethereum is the most popular public blockchain network platform, and the following quick facts are notable in this regard:
- Ethereum offers the “Ethereum Virtual Machine” (EVM), using which developers can code DApps that run on the Ethereum network. EVM is the core component vis-à-vis this capability, and you can read about it in “What is Ethereum?”.
- EVM is a “Turing Complete” computer, i.e., it has a comprehensive system of rules and algorithms to manipulate and process data. To learn more about “Turing Complete” computers, you can read “Turing completeness”.
- Ethereum offers data encryption, digital signatures, and complete decentralized security since it uses the “Proof of Work” (POW) algorithm.
- While POW does a great job of dissuading hackers, it is computing-intensive and requires all nodes to participate in transaction validation. This adversely impacts the scalability of the network, and I have explained this in “Proof of work vs proof of stake comparison”.
- Programmers can code smart contracts on Ethereum using its proprietary language Solidity, and deploy them on the Ethereum network. Smart contracts are autonomous, and they are open-source. No can tamper with them post-deployment, and their execution results are irreversible. You can read more about this in “How to deploy smart contract on Ethereum?”.
- Ether is the native cryptocurrency on the Ethereum network.
- Developers can code their own crypto tokens for their DApps. Ethereum has established standards for crypto tokens, e.g., ERC20, which is a popular standard for fungible tokens. You can read more about ERC standards in “5+ ERC standards every Ethereum developer should know about”.
- EVM, the ability to write smart contracts, and crypto token standards make it easy for developers to code DApps on Ethereum, and launch decentralized businesses. I have earlier described this process in “Blockchain software development using the Ethereum network”.
- The Ethereum project team is working on transitioning to the “Proof of Stake” (PoS) consensus algorithm, however, at the time of writing, the network faces scalability challenges due to the POW algorithm. You can use sidechains to improve the scalability of your DApp, and you can use the “Software Development Kit” (SDK) from Loom Network for this. Our guide “How to scale an Ethereum Dapp” can help you with this process.
A significant number of entrepreneurs have launched their decentralized businesses using Ethereum, indicating its popularity. The Ethereum developer community governs the network.
NEO is a relatively new blockchain platform, built by the blockchain developers from the R&D organization named “OnChain”. Like Ethereum, NEO is also a smart contract platform, where developers can build DApps.
The distinct features of NEO are as follows:
- NEO claims to focus heavily on compliance with the regulations, and they have a GDPR-compliant digital identity solution.
- The native cryptocurrency of this platform is NEO, however, programmers can create their own crypto tokens for their DApps on this platform.
- Programmers can use C#, Java, and Python to code smart contracts on NEO.
- NEO claims a superior performance compared to Ethereum, as a result of their “Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance” consensus algorithm. A team of clearly identified delegates validates transactions, and a transaction needs approval from 2/3rd of the delegates.
- NEO Foundation provides off-chain governance support, whereas NEO token holders govern on-chain decisions.
You can read more about NEO in “ETH vs. EOS, NEO, ADA”.
A competitor to Ethereum and NEO, EOS is another relatively recent entrant in the blockchain platforms landscape. Block.one, a blockchain start-up has developed this open-source platform, and the key features of EOS are as follows:
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- Developers can create and run DApps on EOS, and they can use the native cryptocurrency EOS for this.
- EOS is industry-agnostic, i.e., programmers can create DApps catering to any industry.
- Programmers can code smart contracts on EOS using the popular programming language C++.
- EOS uses the “Delegated Proof of Stake” (DPoS) consensus algorithm, which helps in achieving scalability.
- The platform has been successful in removing additional fees since users use their tokens to cover the bandwidth. This is an advantage when compared with Ethereum.
- This network has an “EOSIO Core Arbitration Forum” (ECAF), which governs the platform.
More information about EOS is available in “EOS vs Ethereum: is EOS a good alternative?”.
Lisk is a blockchain application platform, with certain distinct characteristics, as follows:
- Unlike Ethereum or NEO, Lisk is not a smart contract platform. However, you can code smart contracts outside this platform and integrate them with your blockchain app on Lisk.
- The native cryptocurrency of this platform is Lisk (LSK).
- A key feature of Lisk is that you can code your app on a separate sidechain, therefore, every app running on this platform has its own sidechain. This helps in decongesting the main network.
- Lisk uses the DPoS consensus algorithm, which results in better scalability, and faster transaction throughput.
- Another advantage of Lisk is that the platform offers SDKs, which expedites the development.
You can read more about Lisk in “Comparison of smart contract platforms”.
Best blockchain network hosts for enterprise blockchains
Let’s now turn our attention towards the best blockchain network hosts for enterprise blockchains. There are quite a few options to choose from, and these are as follows:
1. “Blockchain on AWS”
“Blockchain on AWS” is a comprehensive platform that utilizes the excellent cloud capabilities of AWS. Note the following quick facts about this platform:
- Blockchain on AWS offers both centralized and decentralized ledgers. In case of the centralized ledger, a central, trusted authority manages the ledger, and it’s shared with the other parties.
- The decentralized ledger involves members owning peer nodes on the network.
- Both options offer the key values of blockchain networks, e.g., immutable records, audit trail, and transparency.
- Amazon “Quantum Ledger Database” (QLDB) is a fully managed ledger database that provides transparency, immutability, and cryptographically verified transaction log. A central trusted authority owns the database.
- “Amazon Managed Blockchain” is a fully managed blockchain service, using which you can implement enterprise blockchain frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric, or Fabric, as it is commonly called. Fabric is a scalable, modular, high-security blockchain framework that is increasingly popular in the enterprise context. Read “Pros and cons of Hyperledger Fabric for blockchain networks” to learn more about Fabric.
- Ethereum also promotes enterprise blockchains through its “Ethereum Enterprise Alliance”, and “Amazon Managed Blockchain” allows you to implement the enterprise version of Ethereum blockchain.
- AWS also provides blockchain templates, which help enterprises to build their blockchain networks on AWS cloud infrastructure.
- Enterprises can buy Hyperledger Fabric (HVM) on the AWS marketplace and implement it on the AWS cloud infrastructure.
- R3 Corda, from R3, is another popular enterprise blockchain framework. On AWS, you can also implement Corda, and you can get guidance in “Building blockchain applications with Corda Enterprise on AWS”.
2. SAP Cloud Platform “Blockchain as a Service” (BaaS)
SAP has its BaaS offering, called “SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Service”. The key features of this offering are as follows:
- It utilizes the impressive cloud capabilities of SAP, therefore, businesses do not need to invest heavily on cloud infrastructure upfront.
- This offering from SAP is an open blockchain platform.
- Businesses can build new blockchain apps, moreover, they can extend their existing apps with the power of blockchain.
- Enterprises can connect their blockchain applications with SAP HANA, which is a robust in-memory data platform.
- Quorum is an enterprise blockchain framework created by J. P. Morgan, and customers of SAP can create Quorum-based blockchain apps.
- Businesses can also create blockchain networks using the Fabric framework on the SAP cloud platform. You can read “Hyperledger Fabric on SAP Cloud Platform” for more guidance on this.
3. Microsoft Blockchain on Azure
Microsoft Blockchain on Azure is the BaaS offering from Microsoft, and the following quick facts are worth noting with respect to this offering:
- The platform is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, therefore, it makes good use of the company’s excellent cloud capabilities.
- Businesses can develop, test, and deploy blockchain apps, while the platform takes care of the app security aspects.
- Modular, pre-configured networks and a robust cloud infrastructure expedite the development significantly.
- The platform helps in achieving scale, which is important in the enterprise context.
- Microsoft blockchain on Azure supports R3 Corda deployment.
- The platform also supports Hyperledger Fabric deployment, and you can get more guidance in “Hyperledger Fabric on Azure”.
4. IBM Blockchain Platform
IBM Blockchain Platform, the BaaS offering utilizes the impressive cloud capabilities of IBM, as well as the expertise of the company with Hyperledger Fabric. Note the following points while exploring this platform:
- This platform helps businesses to get started quickly since it streamlines the network set-up.
- It also offers developer tools, governance tools, and useful templates.
- Deploying smart contracts, and scaling the network is easy with this platform.
- IBM Blockchain Platform offers SDKs for developing apps with Hyperledger Fabric, moreover, there are impressive integration capabilities on offer.
- The platform offers speedy deployment processes and tools.
Planning a strategic blockchain project?
Whether you are planning to launch a decentralized business or implementing blockchain in your enterprise for efficiency gain, such projects are complex. Excellent blockchain networks hosts can help, however, the technology is new, and evolving. You might want to take professional help from a development partner. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” before you do so.
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